I declare an interest. I am a board member of Rape Crisis Scotland and a member of the cross-party group on men's violence against women and children. I make it clear that I am speaking for myself and not on behalf of either of those organisations.
Any violence, whether in the home or in the street, must be tackled. Those who cause violence must be dealt with by the authorities and the courts. Equally, all those who are at the wrong end of abuse need our support. It is therefore easy for me to back plans to provide a helpline to support men who are the victims of domestic abuse.
I want to inform members why I am very much involved in highlighting the plight of women and children at the hands of men. I cannot recall when I last heard that a woman had been raped by another woman or sexually assaulted by a female partner. No doubt that happens—I am sure about that—but it is rare. On the other hand, tens of thousands of women do not even report offences by men, whether they are rapes or serious assaults, because they believe that if they do they will be seen at best as not credible and at worst as the cause of the attack. They believe that because of bad information that they have received about cases that failed because of issues that were irrelevant to the merits of the case, such as sexual
The ratio of men to women who abuse—particularly sexually abuse—children is massively geared towards men being the abusers. Paedophilia is almost exclusive to men, although I admit that, in some high-profile cases that have involved children who have been sexually abused, the sex rings that have carried out that abuse have included women.
The point that I am trying to make is that there is still massive ignorance about the problems that women and children face from violent men, and that most violence against men is carried out by men. We still have not reached into the consciousness of male society to get men to be proactive in not accepting violence that is carried out by men. The levels of condemnation that are required to make the difference in attitudes to male violence have not been reached. I contrast that with the condemnation of drink driving and the stigma that is attached to it. The public have got the message on drink driving.
The police and any accident and emergency department member of staff will tell us about the aftermath of Celtic versus Rangers football matches. People who have been injured by violent men are there for all to see in hospitals. The hidden part of that is that some supporters of the beaten team will be monsters who take out their frustrations and take revenge on their own families. That is why there is a spike in domestic abuse incidents at such times. Women and children wait for their turn to be abused just because the man's team has lost. I therefore welcome the initiative, but the message should also be given that we should not take our eyes off the ball of men's violence against women and children. Far more women and children are abused and assaulted by men.
In June 2009, Professor Marianne Hester of the University of Bristol published a paper entitled "Who Does What to Whom? Gender and Domestic Violence Perpetrators", which demonstrated that there were significant differences between men and women as domestic violence perpetrators. Men are much more likely to be repeat offenders. She said:
"the intensity and severity of violence and abusive behaviours from the men was much more extreme. This is also reflected in the nature of the violence used ... Men's violence tended to create a context of fear and related to that, control. This was not similarly the case where women were perpetrators."
The fact that men also suffer from domestic abuse should not be a signal to those whom we have been working to convince over the years that we have a real problem with male violence against women and children that we can somehow take
When the cross-party group on men's violence against women and children was set up, I was the convener. I was asked, not in a friendly manner but in a threatening manner, why the title did not also contain the words "violence against men by women". As far as I was concerned, at least 70 per cent of domestic abuse was caused by men and, if we could have a 10 per cent reduction in that, it would be significant progress. If others had wanted to set up a group to deal with the other forms of domestic abuse, they would have got my full and unreserved support and blessing, but my focus was on the 70 per cent, and it still is. Nevertheless, I fully support the Government's positive step to tackle violence against men. It is worth while and will assist the men who need our support, and I give that today.